Spot the migrating whales from June - November and catch the local dolphins at play from one of a number of vantage points on the Ballina - Byron coast or take a whale watching boat charter.
Whale Watching Season
The Australian whale season from June to November, coincides with winter and spring, as the humpbacks begin their annual migration from Antarctica to their breeding ground and the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
The northern migratory route of the humpback is farther offshore as they avoid land mass, with the possibility of seeing them closer to shore being higher on their return journey to their summer feeding in the Antarctic.
While the humpback is more easily seen, it is the southern right whales that appear unconcerned about their proximity to nearby boats and people.
Whale watching from the sea
NSW Parks and Wildlife introduced amended regulations in 2006 that govern whale watching from the sea to meet strict national standards. They introduced a caution zone limiting boats to 300m from a pregnant or calving whale and 100m from an adult or juvenile.
Boats are also banned from approaching whales head on or from the rear. But if a boat is stationary or drifting, a whale can obviously approach and stay with it as long as it likes.
for more info on Whale and Dolphin regulations visit NSW Parks and Wildlife.
Whale Watching vantage points in the Ballina Byron Bay area
The most popular vantage points for whale watching in the Ballina, Byron area are Ballina North Wall, Ballina Lighthouse Hill car park, Angels Beach viewing platform, Flat Rock viewing platform, Skennars Head, Boulders Beach headland or Rocky Point, Pat Moreton Lookout at Lennox Headland, Broken Head, Cape Byron Lighthouse.
Ballina Lighthouse Car Park
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Almost 60% of the world's cetaceans are to be found in Australian waters.
Southern right and humpback whales are baleen or whalebone whales. Instead of teeth, they have an elastic horny substance (baleen) in the upper jaw. Killer whales, or orcas, are sharp-toothed.
While there are said to be 43 species of baleen and toothed whales around Australia, the three most commonly seen types are the southern right, humpback and killer whales.
Southern right whales
- southern right whales are 13 to 18 metres in length
- have no dorsal fin
- are predominantly black but some may have patches of white
- are easily spotted and observed because they tend to calve or rest with young calves in shallow water just beyond the surf line
- they are slow swimmers and yield much oil and baleen, making them the most hunted whale.
- are 14 to 19 metres in length
- have a small dorsal fin, often sitting on a hump
- are black on the back and white underneath and sometimes on the sides
- their flippers and underside of the tail flukes are usually white
- their baleen plates are black
- usually raise their tail flukes before diving
- perform aerial leaps and sing during the breeding season
- are 8 to 9.5 metres in length
- males are larger than the females
- have 10 to 12 pairs of large conical teeth in each jaw
- a tall, erect dorsal fin up to 1.8 metres high is often the mark of the adult male
- the dorsal fin of females is not as tall and is slightly hooked
- have a black and white pattern
- on the back they are black from the tip of the rostrum to the tail, with a white patch above the eyes, and a light grey saddle patch behind the dorsal fin
- on the belly, white extends to the chin and branches into a white process on each side.
- the flukes are white underneath
- are voracious predators, hunting singly or in groups and feeding on fish, seals and other cetaceans
- from Whales in Australian waters
A whale breaching or jumping lift their entire body high out of the water, sometimes twirling around, and come down with a slap creating a huge splash.
The whale raises its head out of the water vertically and will turn, sometimes 360 degrees, to basically have a look around.
The whale sticks its tail out of the water, sometimes swinging it around and slapping it hard on the surface to make a loud clap. Thought to be a warning signal to other whales of danger.
Whales will raise their tails to clear the water, thought to be a means of 'sailing' through the water or to cool down.
When the whale floats or rests motionless with its tail hanging, sometimes with its dorsal fin and parts of the back exposed. A pod of whales will usually face the same direction while logging.
Together with an echoing, hollow sound air and water vapour are expelled through the blowhole. This helps whale watchers to identify the whale.
A loud bellowing noise, usually heard at night from up to 2 km away
Tell us about your whale watching experience
Have you had an encounter with a Whale in the Ballina Byron Bay area that you would like to share? We would love to hear from you - Click Here to share your whale watching sightings.